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Joining a professional organization is extremely important to your career if your main goal is to learn, grow, and network with other like-minded individuals. It exposes you to things you might not have been aware of and keeps you informed about current trends within the marketplace. I have heard many complain about not getting much from the professional organizations they join. Sometimes you get what you put in. If you want value from an organization, you have to engage and become fully present. Over the years I have joined many organizations and have gained valuable skills that I might not have been able to gain otherwise. Here are a few benefits you will get from becoming a member of an organization:
Information and Research: If you are just starting out, the information you receive will be invaluable. Some organizations provide monthly and/or quarterly magazines to their members which provide relevant industry information. There are also constant surveys being conducted to which you can gain access, as well as research. This information might become valuable when working on research papers or for on-the-job use.
Professional Development and Conferences: Joining professional organizations gives you discounted and/or free professional development webinars and workshops that are likely included in your membership. These workshops are often taught by individuals with industry knowledge and save you money. It is a way to get on-demand education, as well. If you need to brush up on a skill or learn something quickly, this is a great way to do that. All you have to do is log on to the organization’s website, and you will have an abundance of information at your fingertips. Conferences are a great way to network and meet people. It is a chance to learn from those within your industry and get the chance to meet with the decision makers, as well. Some organizations offer certifications which is extremely important because more employers are looking for experts within the field. While you might not get paid more for having gained a certification, it sometimes separates you from the pack and puts you head and shoulders above the competition.
Mentoring: I recently joined an organization, and that was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Not only did it provide me with valuable information, it allowed me to find a mentor and a friend. Sometimes people think that mentoring is a one-way street; however, you can learn from each other because you each come into the mentor/mentee relationship with a different skillset that might be lacking in the other. Having a mentor provides you with a navigation system to help answer your questions. A mentor’s job is not to figure out your career for you or find you a job. It is simply to help guide and inform you about what you might encounter along the way.
Networking: There has been so much written about networking, but let’s be honest. For some of us, this is not an easy task. If you are an introvert and enjoy quiet days at home, joining a professional organization is one of the best things you can do. It will give you the support system you need because most of the people you meet will be able to introduce you to others so you will not feel alone.
Scholarship: The cost of education is becoming more expensive yearly and a scholarship is a great option for many students who are reluctant to take out student loans. Scholarships help many obtain a degree they might not otherwise have been able to obtain. Many organizations provide scholarships for their members which exceed the price of their yearly dues and thus provide a huge return on the investment.
Employment: Many organizations provide their members with job opportunities and leads. Sometimes individuals become aware of jobs from networking and getting to know each other. Word of mouth and personal references are great ways to find out about employment opportunities because you get firsthand knowledge about the working environment and can easily get answers to your questions. It is always important to not only join an organization but to become an active participant. It is one of the best things you can do for your career and professional development. It is great to be around other people you admire and from whom you can learn. I have learned so much valuable information since I have become a member of NALS. I found it to be a very welcoming organization that truly cares for its members.
NALS…the association for legal professionals: http://www.nals.org/
NALA – National Association of Legal Assistants: http://www.nala.org/
NFPA- National Federation of Paralegal Associations: http://www.paralegals.org/
ALA- Association of Legal Administrators: http://www.alanet.org/
Legal Secretaries International Inc.: http://www.legalsecretaries.org
About the Author
Tashania Morris, ALS, CDF, has been a paralegal for over six years specializing in foreclosure and later transitioning into bankruptcy. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management and loves all things career development. Her love for the topic led her to complete a certificate course to earn the designation of Career Development Facilitator. If you have any questions about any of the articles written, suggestions about something you would like Tashania to write about, or enjoyed reading the article, send her a quick note. Tashania’s hope is engage, inform, educate, and promote change within. You can reach Tashania at Tashania_m@hotmail.com.
©Copyright 2015 NALS. This article originally appeared in NALS’s The Docket.